Lissie Takes Her California Farewell to London on 'Live at Union Chapel' Album: Exclusive First Listen

Heidi Ross

Lissie takes her California swan song record to London for her second release of the year, Live at Union Chapel. Following her critically-acclaimed third studio album My Wild West, which dropped in February this year, Elisabeth Maurus, otherwise known as Lissie, flaunts her penchant for genre experimentation within the frame of an acoustic solo set. The album drops this Friday, but is exclusively available for streaming below.

The concert was recorded last year at London’s Union Chapel, where Lissie has played several times before. The performance is uniquely trapped in time, with Maurus trying out then-untested, unreleased material. She admits, “I wasn't sure I would release the show when we decided to record it.”

The uncertainty of it all creates a raw and intimate experience. Future gems from My Wild West like the powerful, pop-infused “Daughters” and the raucous “Hero” are presented with Maurus’ singer-songwriter gravitas. The message behind the former track -- Lissie shares her inspiration from Liberian peace activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee -- is especially poignant in this stripped-down version where the lyrics become the main focal point.

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Whereas My Wild West displayed Lissie with a full studio production at her disposal, Live at Union Chapel showcases her natural abilities as a performer. Look no further than her replacement of the full band climax on West’s dour “Sun Keeps Risin’” with impressive, primal vocal adlibs. The live improvisation perfectly punctuates the human emotions behind the song’s chorus, “But the sun keeps rising anyway/ And I still think of you every day,” in a way that can’t be created in a studio. Despite the show recording before the album’s release, the live tracks give no sense of a work-in-progress; rather, Maurus delves deep within herself to produce a completely different, evocative experience.

"Playing live is my favorite part of being a musician,” Maurus says. “Being able to capture and share the energy of the acoustic solo performance and crowd in a space like Union Chapel is exciting!”

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The set offers a bit of each side of Lissie. Over three studio albums, she has diversified her sound with forays into folk, synth-pop, and blues, but the transitions between these different eras are seamless. Cuts from her '80s pop-inspired sophomore record Back To Forever are understandably scarce, but when they do appear, Maurus shines with her ability to translate her most dense productions into spectacular and spry acoustic fare.

The sole track with additional instrumentation, a cover of Joni Mitchell’s “River,” was actually a last-minute addition. Lissie tells Billboard, “It was just before Christmas and I was jetlagged at 4 a.m. in Manchester, sitting on my friends' front stoop listening to music and it came up on shuffle. I hadn't thought of that song in years and it seemed like a perfect fit!”

For a singer-songwriter that is returning to her folk-blues roots, it doesn’t get more fitting than paying homage to Mitchell. The entire performance encapsulates the direction Lissie is moving in her career; with her recent relocation to her native Midwest and California in the rearview, Maurus is dedicated to finding the most honest version of herself. With this latest live set, it is apparent the place to start is on stage.

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Live at Union Chapel is set for release on Sept. 30 via Lionboy Records and Thirty Tigers in the U.S. and Cooking Vinyl in the UK. Lissie is also in the middle of a North American tour, which will conclude on Oct. 15 in her hometown of Rock Island, Ill. For more details, visit her website here